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"Pistis Christou" and Pauline Participation in Christ

Discussion in 'NonChristian Help Forum' started by Lunar, Nov 3, 2008.

  1. Lunar

    Lunar New Member

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    Why has the term "pistis Christou" in Paul's letters (Romans 3:22, 3:26, Galatians 2:16, 3:22, Ephesians 3:12 been traditionally translated as "faith in Christ" rather than the more natural translation "faith of Christ?"Granted, "faith in Christ" does seem to better fit our conception of what the message of Paul's letters is. Paul is well-known for his renunciation of the Jewish law in favor of a method of salvation centered upon Jesus. But what exactly is the Jesus-centered method? Isn't translating "pistis Christou" as "faith in Christ" just twisting the meaning of words to fit our own preconceived notions about Paul?I think that there are other plausible explanations for Pauline participation in and salvation via Christ that fit more naturally with the translation "faith of Christ." The one that I find most plausible is that salvation, for Paul, was actually referring to a physical incorporation of Christ's pneuma into the human body which occurred via baptism. "Pneuma" is usually translated as "spirit," which suggests a Cartesian sort of dualistic divide between body and spirit. But this is actually not how many ancient thinkers envisioned the natural order. In fact, the word "pneuma" as an ubiquitous term can be traced to the Stoic philosophical tradition. For the Stoics, while pneuma was the active reasoning principle in the universe, it was still a material every bit as "natural" or "bodily" as a human body. It was simply a different kind of material.Paul's writing suggests that he holds such a metaphysical view. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:
    ”Not all flesh is the same flesh, humans have one flesh, but animals another, birds another, and fish another. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing and the glory of the earthly is different.
    Humans normally have "earthly bodies." But the pneuma of God is part of a "heavenly body."What we are saved by in Paul is not necessarily faith in Christ as a matter of belief - indeed, cornering religion into being a matter of pure belief is a more modern conception - but that, when we receive Christ's pneuma, the "faith of Christ" is physically present within us. 1 Corinthians 12:13 suggests that the mechanic of this pneumatic incorporation is baptism. When we are baptized, we physically receive a heavenly substance into our body, the pneuma of God. Because this pneuma has the faith of Christ, the pneuma fundamentally alters our state of being, and that alone can cleanse us of sin.Paul's writings concerning Abraham also suggest that he holds this sort of view. Paul frequently cites Abraham's faithfulness towards God as the manner in which he was justified (as opposed to his adherence to the law). And in Galatians 3:8-9
    Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the gentiles out of faithfulness, proclaimed the gospel beforehand to Abraham, namely, ‘in you will all the gentiles be blessed.’ So that those who come out of [Abraham’s] faithfulness are blessed with the faithful Abraham.
    When he writes "In you will all the gentiles be blessed," Paul is not being metaphorical. He means that some of Abraham's physical material, his pneuma, material which has the property of faithfulness towards God, will become present in the gentiles who receive God's blessing through baptism. We should also consider the assertion that Christ was a descendant of Abraham. While Paul's letters were written before Matthew, where the lineage tracing Christ to Abraham was first introduced, the notion of Christ as being part of the Jewish lineage seems to have been a common one. If Christ was a genealogical descendant of Abraham, he would share the same pneuma as Abraham. So in receiving the same sort of pneuma as Christ, we also receive the same sort of pneuma as Abraham.This conception of salvation is effectively an infusion of the gentiles into the Jewish lineage by receiving the pneuma that constitutes genealogical descent from Abraham. To be saved is to participate in Christ and Abraham, and to participate in Christ and Abraham is to share the same heavenly material (pneuma) as Christ and Abraham. This pneuma has the property of faithfulness, the faithfulness which justified Abraham. I think that this might be the manner in which Paul writes that we are saved "through the faith of Christ." This would also explain why Paul would refer to the saved as "brothers of Christ" - rather than being descendants of Christ, they are his contemporary family which share the same pneuma. It also makes sense of the "pneumatic body" (1 Cor 15) much better than the traditional "faith in Christ" interpretation. Paul seems to have a strong fixation with the mechanics of what will happen to our bodies during the resurrection and on several occasions describes bodily transformations as he does in 1 Corinthians 15:42-49. A "pneumatic body" makes no sense if we are considering pneuma to be translated as "spirit" as it usually is. A spiritual body, in Ancient thought, made about as much sense as a round square. But if we understand the pneumatic body to be an actual material body that simply has the heavenly pneuma of Christ present within it, this passage makes much more sense.This is a radical departure from traditional Pauline interpretation, and I'm not sure what to make of it. But the unnatural translation of "pistis Christou" has always seemed suspect to me, and I feel as though this accounts for it very well. Of course, I'm well aware of 1 Corinthians 1:17 ("Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel") but that doesn't imply that baptism is not part of salvation - just that it wasn't Paul's job to do it. Paul, after all, had his own change of heart when he was baptized. What do you all think?
  2. TallMan

    TallMan New Member

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    Because the translators in the versions that get it wrong don't understand the difference.

    Gal. 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
    even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ

    People should believe on Jesus to baptised them in His Spirit so that they can have his faith, the ability to see things as he does.

    That's why he said people need to be born again to "see" (a synonymous term for the same thing as being baptised in the Spirit).

    Look at the difference in the disciples before Pentecost (when, like many "church-goers" today they believed in Christ without having received his Life)
    to after when they could understand and fulfil what Jesus had been talking about.

    Jude v3, 20 later says:
    "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints . . . building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost" (a reference to praying in tongues, the sign and ability given when you enter The Faith, just like Abraham was given a specific sign - Romans 4:11)
  3. robert taylor

    robert taylor New Member

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    It can be a little difficult to know what Paul had faith in. His letters where written some time before the other parts of the NT.
    His letters seem to be addressed to already existing churches, with bishops, priests and deacons and congregations and even buildings.
    He also talks about pre-existing scriptures belonging to these chuches. This does not sound like a lot of new converts to a new religeon
    to me.